Is It Primal? – 10 Foods Scrutinized
Mark’s Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: Not
Your Typical Before and Afters
most common question I get from readers is some variation on the
classic "Is X Primal?" Probably a half dozen times a day, "Is this
Primal?" or "Is that Primal?" pop up in my inbox, often attached
to some ridiculous food or product. My personal favorite was "Is
whole wheat bread Primal?" (it's not), closely followed by "What's
more Primal, red or black licorice?" But that's not to suggest that
all I get is nonsense. Some – most, even – are actually quite reasonable
queries about foods that either seem to reside in Primal limbo,
get talked up by people who you'd think would "know better," or
just taste really good and have people hoping that somehow, someway
they're compatible with Primal living.
be scrutinizing ten commonly asked-about foods. Let's go:
It often feels
like the coconut
enjoys deific status in the Primal community, and for good reason.
in medium chain triglycerides, a relatively rare type of fat
with some intriguing health effects, particularly for weight loss
and brain health. Its flesh can be pulverized and combined with
water to form a creamy, milky beverage that works well in curries,
coffee, and with berries, or dried and ground to form a useful flour.
But what about the water? The water is where all the sugar lies
(16 grams in 12 ounces), so it's natural for some people to be suspicious.
Sugary drinks, whether they be soda or juice,
are generally frowned upon.
water has some cool stuff going on. It contains five electrolytes
the human body needs to function – potassium, magnesium, sodium,
phosphate, and calcium. In a pinch, it can double as a short-term
IV hydration fluid. It's good for a hangover (or so I hear).
It can rehydrate
athletes after exercise, and though it isn't particularly
more effective than something like Gatorade, it's certainly
tastier and healthier.
Primal, but kinda sugary, so go easy on it unless you're in Thailand
sipping on fresh young coconuts (because there's nothing quite like
cold coconut water straight from the coconut), nursing a hangover,
or training hard and need the hydration.
You're probably wondering why this one didn't get tossed out as
nonsense, and I don't blame you. For one, it's dairy, usually low-fat
and ultra-pasteurized. Two, it's full of sugar. Three, it's chocolate
milk. What's the deal here?
is actually enjoying a renaissance in the fitness community. Over
the past several years, a number of studies have teased out the
recovery benefits provided by post-workout chocolate milk:
protein turnover and performance enhancement after endurance training
– Following a 45-minute run, trained subjects
who consumed fat-free chocolate milk (as opposed to a carbohydrate
only beverage, like Gatorade) experienced improved muscle protein
turnover and a higher treadmill time to exhaustion.
recovery after prolonged endurance exercise – Following
several cycling sessions, subjects who consumed chocolate milk
were able to recover
more quickly for a subsequent session to failure. They lasted
51% and 43% longer than the cyclists who had a carb-only beverage
or just water. An earlier
study found similar results.
It seems like
it's the protein content of chocolate milk, paired with the sugar
content, that provides the benefits over just water or Gatorade.
I'll agree that if there's a "good time" to consume sugary beverages,
it's immediately after a long workout, because the sugar will be
primarily (if not completely) used to fuel your energy-sapped muscles.
Throw in some high quality dairy protein and you have yourself a
decent recovery drink. Better than Gatorade, at least.
If I were you, I'd just eat some meat, a piece of fruit,
and have some water. Or if you do milk, have plain whole milk, preferably
raw, skip the "chocolate," and eat a banana. That way you get the
and some fast-acting sugar.
We tout dark
chocolate over milk for several reasons:
- Dark chocolate
generally contains more cacao, which is the source of all the
polyphenols and other antioxidants that provide most of the health
benefits associated with chocolate.
- Dark chocolate
generally contains less sugar than milk chocolate, making it healthier
and giving it more of a complex flavor profile (rather than just
- Dark chocolate
contains healthy fats, like stearic acid (which
has a neutral effect on LDL), while the milk in most milk
chocolates comes from powdered dairy. It can also be adulterated
with vegetable oils (because using cocoa butter in milk chocolate
when soybean oil is available is just crazy talk, right?).
chocolate is more filling than milk chocolate. For the most
part, you don't see people going on three-bar 85% cacao dark chocolate
binges. Polishing off a bag of Hershey's Kisses, though? Who hasn't
done that at least once?
in recent years a new
wave of "dark" milk chocolates has surfaced, sporting higher
cacao contents, complex flavor profiles, and lower sugar counts.
Lattenero 70%, for instance, is 70% cacao. If you go with one
of these bars, and you're okay with dairy, I don't see a problem
with it, especially since the presence
of milk proteins do not seem to affect absorption of polyphenols.
Besides, it's not like chocolate – dark or milk or dark milk – should
be anything but a treat.
that's good in good dark chocolate can be found in cocoa mass, which
is simply the fermented, roasted, ground, crushed cocoa beans. Cocoa
mass has both the cocoa solids and the cocoa butter, but that's
it. No sugar, no flavorings, no binders, no emulsifiers. It's the
last step before undergoing either Dutch processing or Broma processing,
the former of which removes most of the phenolic content and the
latter of which preserves it (along with some bitterness). Cocoa
mass, then, contains all the antioxidants, all the phenolic content,
and all the bitterness. It's great stuff if you can handle it. If
you can't, you might try melting a nugget in a small saucepan with
some coconut milk. Add a bit of cinnamon, some cayenne, and a teaspoon
of sweetener (honey,
maple syrup, stevia),
and you have yourself a delicious way to eat real cocoa mass.
Just make sure
you're really getting 100% cocoa mass and nothing else. Here's an
of a good 100% product. Or you could dig up some unsweetened
baker's chocolate, which is high
in antioxidants and is basically just cocoa mass formed into
If dark chocolate
and cocoa mass are Primal, then cocoa butter definitely qualifies,
too. It's mostly saturated
(stearic acid) fat, with about 30% monounsaturated, and a paltry
amount of polyunsaturated fat.
From what I've
seen, cocoa butter as a cooking fat hasn't really gone mainstream,
so you'll probably have to pay a premium for it. I don't see any
huge advantage to it (besides maybe the LDL-neutral
stearic acid content), but if you can get a good price, go for it.
the rest of the article
to Lew's recent podcast with Mark Sisson
May 4, 2012
© 2012 Mark's Daily Apple
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